Spring 2002–Summer 2003
Adderall XR, Dextrostat, marijuana, Tylenol PM, Effexor, Zyprexa
During my junior year of high school, I hooked up with a pudgy stoner, a senior. If I took stimulants and finished all my homework, I’d smoke a joint with him in the evening. Smoking weed took me out of my usual speedy state. I’d get blissful and drowsy and amused by gravity, and finally I could sleep. What perfect titration, I thought.
This system worked very well until Pudgy Stoner graduated and enrolled at a party school a thousand miles away. My source of herbal titration was gone, and the pressure to get into college was on. At first, I called Pudgy every night. But gradually, he stopped picking up the phone. One morning, before school, he dumped me over e-mail. I was devastated. After lunch, I asked to be excused from class and ran to the girls’ room, where I sobbed and slapped my wrists against the tile floors.
The next day, I dropped off my sister at school and, while searching in vain for a parking space, decided to end my life. I drove to a pharmacy and bought a box of Tylenol PM. Then I drove to another parking lot. As Fiona Apple’s “Sullen Girl” played over the car radio, I swallowed twenty pills. I tore four pages out of my AP European-history notebook and wrote a dramatic suicide note. Then I waited.
As I settled into a stupor, I suddenly realized the gravity of what I had done. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed home. My father picked up. As hysterical as I was, I still managed to tell him where I was and what I had done. He found me and drove me to a hospital, where I was given a charcoal lavage and admitted overnight to the psych ward.
When I was released from the hospital 24 hours later, my parents took me to see Dr. Titrate. I told him I hadn’t really wanted to commit suicide; I just wanted to get back at my ex-boyfriend. My mother asked Dr. Titrate if he thought I might be suffering from depression. “Well, that may be a tiny component of her condition,” Dr. Titrate said. When my father asked about manic depression, he said, “That’s another tiny component. She’s also got a little cyclothymia and phase-of-life issues. She’s a unique case. I hope some day to write about her in a medical journal.” Dr. Titrate kept me on the stimulants Adderall XR and Dextrostat and added the antidepressant Effexor to my drug regimen.
But Effexor seemed to have no effect on me, and so the day before I left for college in upstate New York, my father and I met with Dr. Titrate again. He put me on a heavy-duty antipsychotic called Zyprexa. Dr. Titrate warned me of side effects. “Watch out for tardive dyskinesia, acute dystonia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome,” he said. I nodded dumbly. “Of course,” he added, “the possibility is remote.”
Adderall XR, Dextrostat, Zyprexa, alcohol, marijuana, mushrooms, hash, cocaine
With my parents eleven toll booths away, and my mind on Adderall and Dextrostat, I allowed my wildest impulses to take over during my first semester at Bard. I drank, drugged, and got the world’s most ridiculous tattoo (oh my!) inscribed on the small of my back. My substances of choice were mellow drugs: pot, hash, mushrooms. I snorted cocaine once, but it had little effect on me—I already had quite a tolerance for stimulants.
Stoked by Dr. Titrate’s little helpers, I hosted my own college radio show and called it “The ADD Hour.” Naturally, “The ADD Hour” lasted just nine minutes, and I played only the first eighteen seconds of every song. I couldn’t keep still in class or the library or even my dorm room. I put off starting assignments until the last possible moment. My classmates pulled all-nighters; I pulled all-several-nighters. To finish an art-history paper, I once stayed up 72 hours. Which wasn’t that difficult—the stimulants made sleep nearly impossible.
Bard had a don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude toward drugs, and a thriving black market for stimulants. The going rate for Adderall was $5 a pill. After less than a month at school, I got reprimanded by the dean for giving a fellow freshman a couple of my Adderall XRs. “I’ve got a paper due,” he had told me, before selling them to a narc for $10 apiece and ratting me out to save his skin.
As the semester wore on, I became increasingly erratic. I skipped classes and disappeared from campus for days at a time. My friends still talk of the day they lost me in a Wal-Mart: After paging me for twenty minutes, they found me with no money and a brand-new .22 hunting rifle. (It hadn’t occurred to me where I would store the gun or shoot it or what I would shoot at.) Another day, my parents and Daisy drove up to Bard to meet me for lunch, but I was 100 miles away at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn, hungover from a night of hard drinking.